We asked our volunteers from the European Solidarity Corps: Jorge, Begonia, Carmen and Melina, what are their feddback on this experience they’ve just been completed thanks to our CRE – Creativity, Resilience and Empowerment for Change project for the European Solidariety Corps. They decided to write their own thoughts, let’s find out together.

No one said this year of 2020 would be easy.

Specially if you’re doing a European Solidarity Corps abroad. A volunteering experience were you are suppose to get out of your comfort zone by living aboard, learn a language, meet a different culture and have other amazing adventures… 

I can say that I had all of that and even more… a pandemic during my volunteering months.

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A volunteering experience that was supposed to be only 4 months turned out to be 11 months due to the lockdown at the begging of the year. The hosting organization proposed me to stay more months to compensate all the months I was in lockdown in Palermo. As I wanted to have a proper volunteering experience, I said yes… looking back now, I wouldn’t take back my decision.

These months were a huge learning journey for me in every sense… from living alone, managing conflicts, speaking a different language, get work done in the association and many other things.

With all the restrictions it was not an ideal experience, but as humans we adapt and overcome everything that for us is a problem and try to change it to something, we can be comfortable with.

This is what I did, turned an experience that could be ruined by a pandemic, an turned into a huge learning and growth opportunity that now, I can say I’m grateful to have had it.

See you soon, Palermo.

Jorge Vinhas

The experience began at the same time as the beginning of summer. In the midst of a global pandemic, but the world cannot be stopped for it, you can always help a little more and even more in a difficult situation like the one we are experiencing.

On my occasion, the host agency was CEIPES. 5 volunteers from 3 different countries shared a house, work and free time for 6 months in the wonderful city of Palermo, in Sicily. During the experience, we have had good moments, others more difficult, but you always learn. During volunteering, we carry out different tasks such as helping in immigration centers, cleaning and awareness campaigns in the city, organizing events for young people (face-to-face and online), creating a poetry contest and holding awards for autonomous way. We have done many things but, in the end, it was not so much the goal but the path towards it that made us enjoy this experience.

I bring a new beautiful language (Italian), many friends and experiences that I will never forget.

I highly recommend it to everyone.

Thanks for everything

Begonia

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Before arriving in Palermo, I was happy with this new experience but also afraid of the perception that people would have of me and afraid of being in a country whose language I did not speak. It was a challenge for me.

Fortunately, I had the support of my tutor, Francesca, we were already talking to each other by messages before I arrived, so when I arrived I knew that I had someone to help me in everyday life, to help me with the administrative tasks and all the questions regarding the CEIPES.
Also, meeting the other volunteers, gave me more self-confidence for the six months we were going to spend together. We were all new in Palermo, and all in a process of learning a new culture and a new language. English was our common language and we all hoped that everything would go well.
Finally, these six months were an opportunity to experience the Sicilian way of life, to learn about the amazing history of this island, to meet some locals, and to make friends.

What I will remember most about this experience through living, working, and interacting with people of different nationalities is the power of diversity. The diversity of ways of thinking, the diversity of ways of doing things, and yet a certain unity. I left the city more open-mind and with a better understanding of others.

Carmen

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I got the opportunity to do a six months ESC program with CEIPES from July 2020 to January 2021, and overall I can say that I learned a lot and that I reached the objectives that I gave myself in the beginning.
First of all, of course, I took this opportunity to learn Italian which was not that easy! Surely CEIPES provided us with some Italian lessons but it is true that just living in Italy and trying to meet locals is also enough to learn very fast. Then, of course, I got to discover Sicily and Palermo and it was truly a pleasure. The region and the city have a very interesting history, culture and are obviously beautiful. I feel very lucky to have been able to visit the region even though, of course, I couldn’t visit everything I would have wished because of the sanitary situation.

The restrictions due to the COVID also impacted my volunteering and the activities we could do but in the end we found ways to enjoy this experience anyhow. We had the chance to participate in the web radio and do a variety of podcast on many different subjects which allowed me to learn a lot. I very much enjoyed the opportunity we got to interview two members of SOS Med, it was truly a great learning experience and it is surely something I will remember for long. On that note, we also learned how to edit a podcast which was interesting and hopefully useful for me in the future as I’d like to work in the communication field. Finally, we got the chance to to organize multiple online workshops, but also some in-person events when it was possible. We were quite free when it comes to the topic of the workshops and I truly enjoyed this freedom as it allowed us, for example, to organize a workshop on “Street Art in Palermo” that we had fun planning and leading.
The CEIPES team, especially our tutor, always tried to find ways for us volunteers to do things that we cared about and enjoy, for that reason some of us got to volunteer also in centers welcoming refugees and migrants which is something I deeply appreciated. It was honestly very interesting to meet people who have a background very different from my own and I think that the time I had the chance to spend with them taught me more than I realize.

Finally, we got the chance to support some of CEIPES members in the different projects they are leading or part of. Personally, I was very happy to be involved in a project about gender discrimination as I got to develop my knowledge on that issue, that I was very much interested in before, but also and more importantly I got to know how CEIPES works with its partners, how an online training can be organized and what are some of the main challenges to look out for.

The whole team was always very supportive to me and from the beginning I think that we all felt truly part of the office.
Overall, this volunteering was a great way to get to know the work of an NGO at the local level, I feel like I have a much better grasp of the missions but also the challenges that these organizations faced on a day-to-day basis. Of course, these 6 months were also interesting for me as I got to grow as a person and get a much clearer idea of what I want to do in the future.

Melina

 

Thank you so much guys for for telling us about your experience, CEIPES and all the staff wishes you luck for your future!

You can follow the adventures of our volunteers on our Facebook and Instagram page

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